RI vaccine panel monitoring vaccine access in doctor’s offices


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Department of Health is hoping primary care providers will play a bigger role in increasing vaccinations in 12-15 year-olds over the summer, as new data shows less than 50% of the adolescent population has received at least one dose.

In a virtual meeting of the R.I. COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee on Tuesday, the Health Department reported 82% of people over the age of 35 have gotten at least one vaccine dose, with 78% of all Rhode Island adults partially vaccinated.

The Health Department says nearly 47% of Rhode Islanders 12-15 have received at least one dose, and there will be a major focus on vaccinating kids before school starts this fall.

In its last meeting, the Health Department informed the subcommittee just ten primary care providers were administering COVID-19 vaccines in their offices.

The state’s goal was to onboard more as all but one of Rhode Island’s mass vaccination sites were set to end operations.

Tricia Washburn, chief of the Office of Immunization, says since June about two dozen additional primary care providers have begun officially administering COVID-19 vaccines in Rhode Island.

“At this point in time, 51 primary care provider sites have been onboarded, and it’s taken a little work and time to get us there,” Washburn said on Tuesday.

Currently, just 34 of those 51 are actually administering the vaccine, and Washburn says applications for 44 sites are in progress. However, Washburn says recruiting more may be difficult.

“There are 67% that have either not responded to our outreach or are uninterested,” she said.

Washburn says that’s in part due to a relatively low patient demand, but some providers also cite other reasons they won’t offer the vaccine.

“They just don’t have the staff available to manage. [For] some, storage limitations,” she said, noting that with flu season on the horizon, some providers may be concerned about storing multiple vaccines.

“Some locations have had to purchase a potentially a new, a bit of a larger unit,” she said.

The Health Department says it’s continuing to work on outreach, and having the vaccine in a medical setting will play a critical role in increasing vaccinations.

“Healthcare providers are the trusted source of information for many, many people,” Washburn said, “and having those conversations with people who may be hesitant or in the ‘wait and see,’ and then being able to get them to yes, it would be so important to have the vaccine on hand to be able to vaccinate them immediately, rather than to having to refer them to another location.”

The Health Department reported it is also working on “cold spot outreach,” or targeting vaccinations in areas with disproportionately low uptake. Outreach is being planned in three of these spots from July through August.

Tuesday’s subcommittee meeting marked the last time the group will meet virtually. The subcommittee, which moved from weekly, then biweekly, then to monthly meetings, says it will now move to in-person meetings, in alignment with vaccine milestones.

For example:

  • Emergency Use Authorization of Pfizer/Moderna vaccine in 2–11-year-olds (TBD: Fall 2021)
  • Full FDA approval of Pfizer vaccine (TBD; Fall 2021-Jan 2022)
  • Full FDA approval of Moderna vaccine (TBD; late Fall 2021)
  • Booster doses (if needed)

With the highly contagious Delta COVID-19 variant making up more than 50% of cases in the United States, doctors are reminding people that only receiving one dose of a two-dose vaccine will not provide full protection against COVID-19.

In a news conference Monday, Dr. Megan Ranney stated in Rhode Island, about 60,000 people have gotten only their first dose and not their second of Moderna or Pfizer.

“With the Delta variant, just getting one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer doesn’t cut it,” she said. “You have to be fully vaccinated. You have to both doses.”

“The single dose of Johnson & Johnson still seems to work pretty well,” Ranney added.

Two more COVID-19 cases evolving from the Delta variant were reported on Monday, with the state now up to 14 known and recorded cases.

The Health Department on Monday also reported 70 new positive cases overall since data was last released on Friday, and 20 cases were added to previous daily totals.

Over the weekend, the state had its first COVID-19-related death since June 29, while hospitalizations fell to 23, with three patients in the intensive care unit and three on ventilators.

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